Forest School at St Matthews Catholic Primary School
At St Matthew’s we are very fortunate to have two fully trained Forest Leaders:
Mrs Hatherley, Reception Teacher
Mrs Saunders, Class 5 Teacher
What is Forest School?
Forest School has developed from the Scandinavian education system and is about children building self-esteem and independence through exploring and experiencing the natural world. Forest Schools is a long-term programme delivered by a trained practitioner within a natural environment (not necessarily a forest). Our Forest School programme is tailored to meet the needs of individuals within the group and is continuously developed as the children grow in confidence, skills and understanding.
The ethos of Forest Schools allows learners the time and space to develop skills, interests and understanding through practical, hands-on experiences. It also allows practitioners to step back and observe the children in order to then encourage and inspire individuals to achieve through careful scaffolding and facilitating.
Where will my child be going?
Our Forest School site will be within the school grounds or in Knowles wood. It will have a designated ‘base camp’ that all the children can gather around. There will be sticks, logs, leaves and trees. The site will be thoroughly risk assessed and managed appropriately by a trained practitioner.
What will my child be doing?
The Forest School routine includes: preparing to go outside by dressing in appropriate clothes for the weather, walking to the site, singing songs and sharing stories. Forest School will run all year round and in all weathers (unless weather conditions are dangerous). The child led ethos of Forest Schools means that once at the site the children can choose what to participate in, carefully supported and encouraged by trained adults. Possible activities may include:
- Hunting for minibeasts
- Pond dipping
- Mud sculptures
- Shelter building
- Natural Crafts – making a necklace from elder, crowns/dreamcatchers from willow, weaving with long grasses or collages from natural materials.
Sessions are planned around the individual’s and group’s needs and build upon each week. Our Forest School Leaders are trained through a nationally recognised and accredited training, therefore ensuring our Forest School is a high-quality learning experience. The earlier sessions will concentrate on safety; establishing boundaries and routines. As the children develop in confidence and familiarity with the environment the sessions focus on the development and consolidation of skills and understanding. We will then introduce more complex activities which may include:
- Tree Climbing
- More complex shelter building and tying knots
- Using tools for a purpose – such as peeling bark from sticks to make toasting forks
- Fire building and cooking on a campfire
What benefits will my child get from participating in the Forest School Programme?
Forest Schools supports the holistic development of the child:
- Health and Fitness – being active in an outdoor, natural environment
- Increased emotional wellbeing – There is research available supporting this
- Social development – Communicating, and negotiating with peers and adults to problem solve and share experiences
- Gaining knowledge and understanding – multi-sensory, real-life learning
- Individualised learning – careful observation allows adults to tailor support to children’s own interests and stage of development
- Curriculum links – Forest School supports many areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
Health and Safety
The health and safety of all participants is central to everything done within our Forest School Programme. The Forest School Leader is fully trained in risk assessments and emergency outdoor first aid. The Forest School will always have; a health and safety policy; a seasonal and daily risk assessed site; risk assessment for activities; trained adult helpers; first aid and emergency equipment. Some of the activities the children may participate in are ‘higher-risk activities’ (such as campfire cooking or tool use). However, these activities are not available to the children until certain boundaries and behaviours are established. Children are encouraged and supported in recognising and managing risk for themselves, through real-life situations and experiences.
What should your child bring?
Children need to be dressed appropriately in order to enjoy their time at Forest School to the full.
The most important thing is that children bring is a sturdy pair of waterproof boots or wellies.
Appropriate waterproofs, as throughout the year we can experience cold and wet conditions and a waterproof will also double up as a windproof, so keeping your child warm. If a child is inappropriately dressed they could suffer, which may cause the whole group having to leave.
- Long sleeves top and full-length trousers are a requirement.
- Layers of clothes are better than one thick layer, so we can add or remove layers if temperatures change.
- Hats and gloves – including sun hats during sunny weather
- Wellies – these not only keep our feet dry when playing in mud or puddles, they also protect from nettles and brambles.
- Warm socks
- A set of warm dry clothes for changing into once back at nursery /school – including sock
Should you have any further questions or concerns?
We understand that you may have some questions and concerns about this activity so please speak to Mrs Hatherley or Mrs Saunders both Forest School Leaders.
There will be a Permission Slip to complete for this aspect of learning. This must be returned signed for your child to participate. This permission slip will be valid for this academic year and must be completed for your child to attend Forest School.
We look forward to offering an exciting and challenging experience for your children!!